Yes to the Voice ‘vital to closing gap’: peak bodies

4 minute read

More than a hundred health sector organisations have affirmed their support for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

More than 125 leading health organisations have signed an open letter supporting the Voice to Parliament as a measure that will reduce health disparities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

The move may be too late to shift opinion, however, with a poll out today showing No leading Yes by a wide and growing margin.

The letter, released earlier today, argued that establishing a Voice to Parliament would bolster the policy-making process around matters concerning First Nations communities, thereby improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

“As health professionals, we witness firsthand the disparity in health outcomes between non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” the letter said. 

“The Voice is an opportunity for us to make a practical difference, to ensure the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians does not continue to widen. 

“We encourage all Australians to actively consider the possible health and wellbeing benefits that the Voice to Parliament would have for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” 

It was signed by peak national bodies representing medical professionals, researchers, and industry partners across the healthcare spectrum, including the AMA, RACGP, the Health Services Union, AIDH, the MJA, Johnson & Johnson and Telstra Health. 

According to former AMA vice president Dr Chris Moy, the letter represented the views of “pretty much every major health organisation” in the country. 

“Basically, every major health organisation is coming out in support of this. And the reason why is because we’re at the front line we see the disadvantage but also we see the outcomes,” Dr Moy told media at a press conference earlier today. 

“I think if anybody else was thinking that they were going to be robbed of eight years [life expectancy] because of the terrible system that exists out in the world, there wouldn’t just be a Royal Commission, there would be far wider change in the system. 

“We’ve got to open our eyes and this is why these organisations have come out and tried to cut through the noise and get into the real problem, rather than get into these mind games which seem to be occurring at the moment.” 

Speaking alongside Dr Moy, Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler also thanked the organisations for publishing the letter, calling the Voice a “new approach” to addressing excessive, and in some cases growing, disparities in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 

“There is no area of policy more important than health where a Voice to the Parliament and to the executive from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be more valuable,” Mr Butler said. 

“We have to be honest that with the current approach, that gap is not closing. Indeed, in too many areas, the gap is actually getting worse. 

“I really want to thank those organisations for stepping out and indicating their view about this referendum. 

“Closing the gap and recognising the place of First Nations people in this country as the oldest continuously surviving culture on the face of the planet is an incredibly important thing for the Australian people to vote on in about 19 days’ time.” 

The Australian published a Newspoll today showing a widening gap, with No now leading Yes by 56% to 36% of respondents. The swing towards No, the newspaper reported, had occurred across almost all age groups and other demographic indicators “but is most pronounced among women and younger voters who have been the strongest supporters of the voice to date”.

The open letter, “A Voice to Parliament will improve health outcomes”, can be read in full here. 

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